A ewe should be selected for breeding based upon her structural soundness, pelvic structure, birth weight EPD, the milking ability of the ewe and her body condition score. Ewes that have difficulty at lambing due to a small pelvic area should be culled from the flock. Also ewes that throw extremely large lambs that cause problems during lambing should be added to the cull list.
Nutrition is very important in preparing a ewe for breeding and gestation. The goal is to increase ovulation rate, leading to an increase in number born. As producers, we also want to increase the number of ewes bred and decrease the length of the lambing season. Flushing is the practice in which we increase the dietary energy content to ewes causing them to gain weight which increases the chance of improving ovulation rate. Prolific breeds many not need the extent of flushing as other breeds. The increased ovulation is great for increasing the number of twins and triplets. Prolific sheep may throw more quadruplets, a litter to large for most ewes to handle on their own. Too many lambs can cause delivery problems such as multiple lambs trying to be delivered at once and becoming entangled in the birthing canal.
The last trimester is when the lambs grow the most. Adequate levels of nutrition are needed for the ewe to supply nutrients to her lambs. Inadequate nutrition will result in loss of body condition of the ewe as well as small and weak lambs. Having the ewes checked for pregnancy using real-time ultrasound allows for a fetal count. If space is available, ewes should be grouped by the number of feti present. Ewes with triplets and quads will require more energy and nutrients than a ewe with only a single.
Mineral nutrition is also important and there are three types of vaccines that are needed by pregnant ewes and, later, their lambs. These include BoSe, a mineral/vitamin combination used as a supplement in all regions where feed is deficient in the mineral selenium, a nutrient needed to prevent birthing problems and white muscle disease. The other preventative vaccinations are for tetanus and enterotoxemia or “overeating disease” and can be administered separately or with a dual purpose Clostridum vaccine.
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